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Stories from the NFL

Strange but true stories

Green Bay Packers Quarterback Brett Favre Photo by LAYNE KENNEDY/Corbis via Getty Images

On the eve of the New York Jets season opening victory (?) against the Buffalo Bills, I wanted to regale you with some stories, history and fun facts about the NFL which will lighten the mood before battle. The NFL is full of wild stories and of course I can retell only a small percentage of them, but here are a few for your entertainment. EnjoyE

1) The NFL Draft

The NFL draft is a passion of min,. but I had no idea how or why it was created in the first place It stands to reason that the founders of the NFL would have devised this plan from the beginning, but that was not the case. The Draft was conceived by Bert Bell, the then-owner of the Eagles. He came up with the plan because he was tired of losing. His teams were never close to a championship. The Packers and Bears ruled the Western Conference and the Giants, and the team from Washington ruled the East.

The Eagles were never close because Bell realized that all the best college players wanted to win a championship so they would choose one of the before mentioned teams to sign with, not his. He gave an impassioned speech before the NFL owners council:

“Gentlemen, I’ve always had the theory that pro football is like a chain. The league is no stronger than its weakest link and I’ve been a weak link for so long that I should know. Every year the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Four teams control the championships, the Giants and Redskins in the East, and the Bears and Packers in the West. Because they are successful, they keep attracting the best college players in the open market—which makes them successful. Here’s what I propose [to change that].”

1A) The Mr. Irrelevant fight

After the 1979 season, a season which saw the Steelers beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII (which was a great Super Bowl) there was a unusual tete-a-tete in the Draft later that year between the two teams. The rules of the Draft at the time were if missed your pick (ie time had expired), the next team would get that selection and your pick would follow. The Draft in 1979 lasted lasted 12 rounds so we are talking about selections # 329 and #330.

The Cowboys let their time pass which gave the Steelers the pick. They let the time pass. This went back and forth (for what reason I have no idea) until Dallas picked the LB Quentin Lowery from Youngstown st as their 329th pick. The Steelers selected a WR Mike Almond with the 330th pick, and of course he didn’t make the team.

NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle (who was a no nonsense authoritarian) instituted the “Salata Rule” (after the founder of Mr. Irrelevant) which mandated that the team with the final pick must use the final pick unless traded.

Interesting was the fact that the two players involved were mere footnotes in NFL history yet the player before those selections was Drew Hill. Selected by the Rams, not the Cowboys, Drew Hill was a prolific receiver of his own right in the NFL. Hill played 14 seasons with the Rams, Oilers and Falcons and retired with 634 receptions, 9,831 yards and 60 TDs.

1B) The pick that was not allowed

In the 17th round of the 1972 Draft, Falcons coach and former star quarterback Norm Van Brocklin stood up and yelled, “Do we want the roughest, toughest S.O.B. in the draft?” Everyone yelled “Yes!” followed by Van Brocklin calling the NFL and saying Atlanta was picking John Wayne of Fort Apache State. He was picking the actor John Wayne who was a huge movie star at the time. Back before his acting career, when he was named Marion Morrison, he played football at USC. At the time of his “drafting” he was 64 years old. Fort Apache State is a nod to Fort Apache, a classic John Wayne Western. Later Pete Rozelle disallowed the pick, and Atlanta selected Bill Holland a RB from USC who of course did nothing in the NFL. How can you ever replace John Friggin Wayne?

1C) Draft Larceny

George Allen was a legendary figure in the NFL who was a head coach for 12 years. He didn’t like rookies and would often trade his picks for veteran players. He felt that rookies made mistakes, and he could not afford mistakes. In truth the NFL and college games were miles apart in likeness at the time. It took rookies some times a couple of years to get up to speed in an offense or defense.

In 1971 coach George Allen traded the club’s 1973 first round draft choice to the Jets. Then he turned around and dealt that same exact pick to the Rams. He would do the same with second and third round picks too. No one noticed. Those trades netted four players who helped the Redskins make their first Playoffs in decades. It wasn’t until 1972 that Pete Rozelle got wise to Allen’s dealings. The Redskins were fined $5,000 and forced to make restitution, which included giving the Jets the team’s 1974 first rounder. Rozelle said the actions were “unintentional in nature,”which of course was a lie.

1D) The NFL #1 pick was given to every team

The NFL used to ensure that every team was given the first pick in the Draft back in 1947. This practice lasted until 1958. The pick was a bonus pick that was included in your normal pick. Fortunately few teams knew how to scout players back then so it was not effective.

1E) First college junior allowed to enter draft

For years the NFL worked alongside the NCAA in not allowing non-seniors into the draft. That changed when Barry Sanders was allowed into the draft as a junior in 1990. He still had an eligibility year left, but his college team was going on probation so the NFL didn’t want a court battle and let him in. That opened the doors for many other players to come in and Barry Sanders became a NFL legend.

1F) The NFL Draft had to stop calling itself the draft during WW II

Because of the actual war draft the NFL stopped calling the Draft “the Draft.” It was instead referred to as the “preferred negotiations list.”

1G) Did you pick the wrong guy? Or did you?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a sometimes bedeviled franchise. In 1982 they were torn between two players, either Sean Ferrell a guard from Penn State or Booker Reese a DE from Bethune-Cookman. The Bucs decided to go with Reese so they called their guy (the Bucs equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo) who was making the picks and told him, “No, not Ferrell. We are going with Booker Reese.” He never heard “not Ferrell” or “we’re going with Booker Reese” because of the noise and picked Sean Ferrell in the 1st round.

Once the Bucs realized the screw up, they tried to convince the league to give them a redo. It wasn’t allowed. No one selected Reese so when the Buccaneers were up to pick in the second round, Reese was still there and they took him. The fact of the matter is that Sean Ferrell was a decent guard who played well for the Bucs for a number of seasons, and Booker Reese was an utter bust who never lived up to a second round billing let alone a first.

2) Brett Favre

There is about a chapter in the book of football lore dedicated to Brett Favre. Oh, we could go on about Brett Favre for a long time, but just like his name the story is a little weird yet a little simple. In 1989 while in college at Southern Mississippi, Favre won a game against #6 Florida State who had national championship aspirations at the time. FSU had beaten Favre and Southern Mississippi 49 - 13 the year before. Favre threw the game clinching pass in the final minutes to seal the victory for Southern Mississippi 30 - 26. That is when I first started following Favre. FSU was my squad so if you beat my team pretty much by yourself I’m gonna remember you.

Brett Favre was later selected in the 2nd round of the 1991 Draft with the 33rd pick overall by the Atlanta Falcons. His coach was Jerry Glanville who was a tough but eclectic coach. Glanville never acknowledged the talent Favre had and didn’t try to nurture him. Glanville never wanted Favre in the first place. Favre himself was dejected that he wasn’t a first round pick. He didn’t sign a rookie contract right away and negotiations became contentious. When Favre’s agent started negotiating with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, Glanville went ballistic using some foul language to describe his team’s selection. Once Favre signed with Atlanta he had little chance of ever getting on the field for meaningful snaps while Glanville was there.

Glanville thought Favre to be a rube but knew he had a very strong arm. Favre was the third string QB in Atlanta, but he still dressed for games. Back then everyone dressed three QBs for a game. It was customary for coaches to meet in the middle of the field a few hours before games and chat for a few minutes. Glanville used Favre to make him some money. He would look up at the stadium and tell the opposing coach, “You know I have a young QB who could throw a ball into the third deck from here.” Invariably the opposing coach would say “No way” so Glanville would make a $100 bet with the coach that his guy could. Once the bet was set he would call for Favre. Favre would throw the ball into the third deck, and Glanville would make himself $100. This happened a few times until the rest of the NFL coaches got wind of the scam.

Other than that, Favre did little in Atlanta. He played in two games and only threw a pass in one of them (4 passes total). He didn’t complete any passes ever in Atlanta. Yet there is a story in that as well. This was Brett Favre’s first pass as a professional NFL player.

After this pass Favre was said to go to the sideline and say, “My first pass in the NFL went for a touchdown.” His teammate next to him said, “Yeah, but it went to the wrong team.” Favre retorted, “Yeah, but it’s still a touchdown,” and walked away with a smile on his face.

Favre’s time in Atlanta was short. He didn’t get along with his coach, and Favre had his own demons. He liked to party a lot.

Favre knew he was a problem, and his relationship with his coach was bad. Favre said. “I didn’t know him that well, and he didn’t know me. We didn’t spend a lot of time together. I missed the team picture. I missed a couple of other things. I was late for meetings. I was surprised it took them that long to trade me.’’

Favre was traded the next year to Green Bay for a first round draft pick, the 19th selection in the 1992 Draft. That pick turned into Tony Smith a RB out of Southern Mississippi who never was a success in Atlanta. Favre was oblivious to anything at the time, “I was so naive. I remember when they called me, I was sitting with my brothers, eating crawfish and drinking beer. It was like, ‘Oh, I was traded, great.’ But I wasn’t going to give up my five thousand crawfish.’’

Glanville stated that the Jets wanted Favre, “I know the Jets were interested in dealing for him, but if he would have been sent to a town like New York, which never closes, you probably would have never heard of Brett Favre. I actually didn’t know about the trade until it was done by Ken Herock the Falcons vice president of personnel for the club, and it’s a good thing he went to Green Bay, a sleepy town.”

You never know how things would have worked out, but it would have been interesting.

When Favre arrived in Green Bay Mike Holmgren had just taken over for Lindy Infante as head coach. Holmgren had (in the future) an all-star coaching staff, many of whom he took from the 49ers where he was the offensive coordinator. Here is a list of offensive coaches.

Offensive Coordinator – Sherman Lewis

Quarterbacks – Steve Mariucci

Running Backs – Gil Haskell

Offensive Line – Tom Lovat

Assistant Offensive Line/Tight Ends – Andy Reid

Offensive Assistant/Quality Control – Jon Gruden

Green Bay was installing the new West Coast Offense, and Steve Mariucci was tasked with teaching Favre the system. If he did not succeed then you would never of heard of Favre or Mariucci again.

Favre was behind Don Majkowski on the depth chart but made it into the second game of the year in 1992 when the Packers were getting just destroyed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Majkowski was benched for the entire second half in a 31-3 loss, and of course Favre had to do something never before had been done in NFL history;

He completed his first pass in the NFL to himself for an 8 yard loss. Favre was always a gamer, and he was always entertaining. He want on to start 13 games that year for the Packers and went 8-5 as a starter.

A few years later Favre was the starting QB, and Ty Detmer from BYU was his backup. Once they were sitting in a QB meeting with Mike Holmgren, and Holmgren was showing game film of their next opponent up in front of the room and talking about the team’s defense. He was going over some plays to run against their nickel defense when Favre leaned over to Detmer and whispered (the conversation went something like this)

Favre- “Ty I got to ask you a question.”

Detmer- “Yea what’s that?”

Favre- “What is this nickel defense he keeps talking about?”

Detmer gave Favre a strange look.

Detmer- “Are you serious?”

Favre- “Yeah I’m serious”

Detmer “Well it’s when the defense takes out a linebacker and replaces him with an extra defensive back.”

Favre- “Is that it?”

Detmer- “Yeah, that’s it.”

Favre- “Really? who gives a s___t”

Brett Favre was a considered a “gunslinger” or a “country boy” but he was always entertaining. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the Falcons had really traded Favre to the Jets. It is interesting because the player that Jerry Glanville really wanted instead of Brett Favre was Browning Nagle from Louisville who the Jets drafted the year before in the second round.

That would have been an easy swap of QB’s.

It could have been glorious.

Enjoy the 2019 NFL season all.